May 26, 2018

Book Review: The Wrath & The Dawn / The Rose & The Dagger

After hearing about The Wrath and The Dawn / The Rose and The Dagger duology by Renee Ahdieh on book-tube, I was very excited to read this series.
The Wrath and The Dawn is the first book and follows Sharzad post-death of her friend at the hands of the supposed boy-King, Khalid. 

Khalid has killed every bride the morning following their wedding night and Sharzad is set on living to avenge her friends death. Her plan is to kill Khalid.
Quickly she arrives at the palace and becomes accustomed to life with her new husband. Through several encounters and her knack for story-telling Sharzad finds out that there is more to this killer King and surprisingly she's falling in love with him.

Khalid proves himself to Sharzad but keeps her at a distance. He has to protect her as he too is falling in love with her. The problem is, he is cursed. The curse originates from his first wife, Ava who died and whose father bestowed a curse of a thousand kills on Khalid. To break the curse, Khalid must kill one thousand souls to free himself. 

Sharzad and Khalid struggle to navigate their new relationship and feelings while political schemes and coup operations surround them in the kingdom.

Keep in mind, Sharzad is sixteen and Khalid is only eighteen. YA fiction always astounds me at the perils these young people find themselves in. At sixteen, I myself was trying to navigate algebra and pimples!

Nevertheless, these two begin their quest as husband and wife and as soon as they defeat one challenge, another pops up.

As this book finishes, Sharzad has been kidnapped and Khalid is feeling bad for himself still in his destroyed kingdom, post-battle.

This book was nice but not good or great. The dialogue is a nice detail towards the story and in keeping with the middle-eastern theme. Ahdieh uses authentic language and terminology to keep the rich setting alive - which I appreciated.

Joonam which translates to "my everything" was my favourite word in the whole book. Khalid refers to Sharzad as Joonam a few times within the books and I thought it was so beautiful. 

I'd also like to point out that Ahdieh paints the most magical food scenes that I've ever read. Saffron rice, lavash bread, fresh vegetables and more! Reading these scenes made me hungry!

The Rose and The Dagger was a nice finish to this story and although the lot of characters could be slightly confusing, I made it through. Sharzad gets to explore her magical gift (which I wish had been expanded upon further in The Wrath and The Dawn). Khalid is struggling with the curse and it is becoming stronger within his body.

As the politics and plotting behind the scenes of the secondary characters comes to a head, Tariq the love interest of Sharzad from The Wrath and The Dawn also comes to a nice close. 

I'll be honest, the whole love triangle thing as a theme  in books, is kind of driving me crazy. 

We also get to meet Irsa, Sharzad's younger sister. She plays a big role in this story and her relationships also help to round out the story.

In terms of the layout of the whole story, I felt that the first book just kind of throws Sharzad right into the palace. There is no real explanation as to how she gets there or the process of how a bride is chosen for Khalid, so that could have been some nice background.

The character of Khalid was your stereotypical quiet, disturbed and distraught young man. I looked at him like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. The curse that holes up inside of him and the things that he has endured and done have put this shroud of darkness over him so you definitely feel bad for him.

One thing that I did love was the Ahdieh really puts an emphasis on love and putting ones interest above your own and the sacrifices that we make for our loved ones.

The dynamics of relationships conveyed in these books aren't detailed too much, but there is strong father figures and no real mother figures. The mother's either don't play a role in the dialogue or they have been killed as part of the story.

Now in kingdom based stories and typical middle-eastern cultures, the men are the head of the household and women typically do not have a voice in matters concerning politics and the business of the family. So I'm not sure if the author intended the characters to have no real feminine, motherly figures, but it was something that I definitely noticed while reading these books.

The story of the Girl Who Chased the Moon was a really nice tale woven into The Rose and The Dagger. When I read that part I had goosebumps! 

While this was a nice series to read, and I'm glad that I read it, I think I hyped it up to much. I did like that the name Leila was used for Khalid's mother. So that was kind of cool to see.
Overall, these books were okay. I didn't hate them, but I didn't love them either. The Wrath and The Dawn was my favourite out of the two.

I have Renee Ahdieh's The Flame in the Mist on my Goodreads page marked as Want to Read, but I'm not sure if I will. 

Anyways, onto the next book!

Images sourced from

May 25, 2018

Historical Fiction and Why I Love It

I remember grade ten history in high school and how boring it was. I don't think it was the teacher's fault or the actual history of Canada and its impact in WWI and WWII, but I do think that it was in the way that it was conveyed.

I also remember not doing too well in that class. This is something that shames me as I love history and actually can remember dates and places quite well.

When I picked up my first couple of historical fiction novels, (Jennifer Robson and Beatriz Williams are just a couple off the top of my head), they transported me. They took me into the pages and with their details and descriptions I too was placed in the setting alongside their main characters.

In my previous post mentioning Jennifer Robson, I wrote that her academic background lends to her attention to detail and I am not kidding. For me, I need the descriptions and the ideas behind objects, tickets, expenses and day-to-day life to really immerse me in the story.

Reading about characters set during WWI and WWII provide a romantic and sometimes harrowing tale for readers such as myself. I think these stories provide a small insight and turn, what I'm sure is notebooks full of research for the authors into 350 or so pages of pure delight and immersion for people like myself. 

When I found Kate Morton, she was the perfect Gothic / Victorian historical fiction writer that I needed. Her books are like a vortex that picks you from your seat and pulls you in as soon as you open the cover. I am excited for her next novel, The Clockmaker's Daughter.

Can you tell I love Kate Morton's books?
Stories set during the first and second world wars are of constant interest to me and unfortunately I can't narrow it down to one thing. Maybe it's the history itself, the lives of characters inspired by real life people or maybe against all the odds in the world, some people were able to move on and create lives for themselves.Whatever it is, these stories provide hope and inspiration that no matter the hardships, even a plucked flower has the chance to bloom again. 

Even though I love historical fiction, I also enjoy adult fiction, contemporary fiction and YA.

I can't narrow down my favourite historical fiction story, but I highly recommend Kate Morton, Beatriz Williams, Jojo Moyes, Jodi Piccoult (The Storyteller) or Danielle Steel (The Legacy) to get you going.

What is your favourite genre to read? 
Leave a comment below.

May 23, 2018

War Storm & Recaptains

It should be known that I have never been a big fan of book series, probably because I have never found one that I really loved, with the exception of Harry Potter (of course). 

The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard is one that surprised me.

With the fourth and final book, War Storm out this month, you better believe that I pre-ordered a copy via Indigo Chapters online. They always discount the pre-order copy online so it's a great deal!

Warm Storm will put everything to a close in the Red Queen series, but due to the fact that I read the three previous books so long ago, I had to visit the Recaptains online Red Queen re-cap book blog to refresh my memory.

First of all - thank you to the book gods for the Recaptains (and any others like it) where I can find synopsis and sequel names for books and book series. This is helpful to anyone who devours books and loses their memory between book releases.

You'll notice their widget on the sidebar of Simply Books because this online platform is a bible to readers like myself. 

Their site is easy to use, search and comment on. They provide covers for every book and give a very thorough break-down of each book. 

The books for the Red Queen series are as follows:
  1. Red Queen
  2. Glass Sword
  3. Kings Cage
  4. War Storm
Kings Cage so far has been my favourite. Lots of character development and the love triangle comes to a close - but is it really done? "You aren’t alone. You have your crown." This quote gives me chills - it's so good! With Cal taking the crown and Evangeline at his side to be married, Mare walks away, ready to take on the Silvers.

I'll have to go through the Recaptains posts for each of the three previous books before diving into the 500+ pages of War Storm. It's a HUGE book!  

I'm so excited to read this book and will probably do so after reading Renee Ahdieh's, The Wrath and The Dawn / The Rose and The Dagger duology. 

I'll definitely follow-up with a review for War Storm as I will for Ahdieh's duology.

Stay tuned!

Jennifer Robson Author Talk Event & Review

This month I had a wonderful opportunity to see one of my favourite Canadian authors, Jennifer Robson at my local library.

Getting another chance to listen and chat with Jennifer was a real treat and to do so at my local library was an added bonus! We were called her "super fans" at the reading and had our picture shared in the library's e-newsletter.

My coworker and I (see image below), really enjoy Jennifer's books and we had previously met her at the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto a few years ago. 

Me (left), with Jennifer Robson (middle) and my coworker, Lorene at the Author Reads event.

Finding Jennifer Robson and her books was a desperate attempt on my part to keep my love for Downton Abbey alive after I binged on the show. I was searching high and low for any media - books, movies, tv shows, everything! Just to keep the love for WWI Britain and my anglophile love alight.
The book that started it all.

At a trip to Costco, (I love their book selection and prices), I found a copy of Jennifer Robson's Somewhere in France (The Great War #1). I quickly grabbed a copy and read it immediately. 

The book was everything that I was looking for! It combined the aristocratic British class and the Great War and the romance that I craved - the perfect post Downton Abbey crave filler.

This book launched my love for the historical fiction genre and now I'll find books that take place in WWI and WWII as instant must-reads. 

Some authors similar to Jennifer Robson that I enjoy are Pam Jenoff, Karen White, Santa Montefiore, Lucy Sanna and more! Check out Goodreads for full lists and suggestions - you won't be disappointed!

While at our library for the seasonal Author Talk event, Jennifer Robson touched on her recent book, Goodnight from London which was her first book that was set during WWII. 

Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson

Goodnight from London centers around Ruby who is an American reporter sent to Europe to cover the stories of the war. Ruby finds love, loss and a strength inside herself that she didn't know she had.

Jennifer writes with amazing detail. Everything from the comfort of the train seat, to the rations provided each week and even down to understanding the currency at that time. Her attention to detail and academic background lend a hand in her writing and her words are transporting.

Whenever I read a Jennifer Robson novel I am immediately sucked into the pages and I feel like I am right there too. Not many authors can do that.

Jennifer Robson also touched on her next book release, The Gown: A Novel. 

As told by Jennifer, The Gown follows two women who are a part of the team who is creating Queen Elizabeth II wedding dress. What an awesome concept!

Jennifer actually went to London to the atelier who originally hosted the seamstresses who embroidered and sewed Queen Elizabeth II actual wedding dress and even created a beautiful motif, similar to the original motifs on Queen Elizabeth II wedding veil, just so she could gain an understanding of the time and effort that went into the hand embroidered masterpieces. Now that's dedication! 

The expected date of publication for The Gown: A Novel is January 8, 2019 and I am counting down the days!

My local library is hosting another Author Talk event in June 14 for Heather Tucker who will be speaking about her debut novel, The Clay Girl. I have never heard of this book, but after reading the synopsis, I'm excited to try it.

Images courtesy of and the Collingwood Public Library.

May 22, 2018

10 Books You Probably Haven't Read ... Yet

I'm known for my random book finds and off-beat title choices.

At work, the ladies are always interested in what I'm reading and always say that I find the books that no one has ever heard of. 

So here are ten books that you probably haven't heard of or read ... yet.

He Said / She Said was a recent find for me that I purchased via Book Outlet. This story was creepy and captivating and I couldn't put it down. Think of it like a HBO TV mini-series that keeps you on the edge of your seat. This story follows a couple post-dramatic past and how they reflect on the choices made on one harrowing night. Eclipses never sounded so chilling. 

Juliet by Anne Fortier is an all-time favourite re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. Although I personally have never read Romeo and Juliet, this story has stayed at the top of my favourites list since high school. I used it during my grade 12 novel study and remember not being able to stop reading it. In fact, I read it twice that year. 

Basically Juliet is a distant relative from the original Juliet and how some secrets come out and falls in love with her Romeo (or something like that). Think Dan Brown meets Nora Roberts. You won't be disappointed. 

Kristin Gore's Sweet Jiminy was a random find for me at the local dollar store. I love the selection of books at the dollar stores and for less than $5, you can find some great, notable reads! Go check it out for yourself. 

Sweet Jiminy was a southern tale that left me wanting more. I remember reading this book and loving every page. It's a quick read that weighs more in depth, then in page numbers. 

Under the Jeweled Sky was a heart-wrenching book. While reading this book, have tissues on hand. There, you were warned. This book was another dollar store find for me and I read it in one night. The writing of Alison McQueen was rich and emotional. I HIGHLY recommend this story. 

Digging in the bargain bins at any major grocery store, department store or random hole-in-the-wall is no feat for me. I don't mind. Especially when I know I'll find some gems at the bottom. 

Modern Girls was just one of those many gems. I almost put this book down and I'm so glad that I didn't. A woman of Jewish heritage falls pregnant all the while trying to keep it a secret from her family and maintain her relationships and makes decisions that shape the rest of her life. This coming-of-age story shows a version of a mother-daughter relationship, (like all mother-daughter relationships) that was beautiful, complex and definitely makes you think about what you would do in that situation. I didn't like the choice that the main character made at the end, but I'll let you decide. 

The Bookseller. Where to begin? This book was awesome! It was quirky, witty and beautiful. Soon to be a motion picture (apparently), starring Julia Roberts, The Bookseller was a great find that I couldn't put down.
This story follows a woman who is stuck between a dream and a reality, but soon the two start to fuse together and in a weird trip / twist of events, the main character comes to realize that the smallest choices that we make have lasting effects. I so hope this book becomes a movie!

I love adult fiction that surrounds the topics of family and sibling and Laura Dave's Eight Hundred Grapes is a perfect example of that. This witty, realistic story follows the Ford family and their vineyard. Dad wants to sell, mom wants a divorce and the kids can't agree on anything. This book was the perfect breezy summer read that easily played in my head as a movie. Do you do that too? Do you see books as movies in your head? I even think of celebrities that would portray the role. 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore was a quick grab for me before checking out at my local Indigo Chapters book store. I hummed and hawed but eventually purchased this book. It was a bit challenging to get into but I'm so glad that I did. This was a different read for me but the story was great. A bookstore clerk's customer commits suicide in the bookstore where she works. The story he leaves behind for her unravels secrets of her own story and brings to light some truths that she thought she had buried deep inside. Read it for yourself - you won't be disappointed. 

The first and definitely not the last book that I'll be reading from Gwendolyn Womack, The Fortune Teller was fast-paced, full of historical and wonderfully woven romantic stories and finished with a bang! Take this book on for size at your next book club or just to get you through the weekend. Womack expertly weaves past and present, taking you along for a ride of mystery, romance, murder and magic. I can't wait to read The Memory Painter by her next. It's currently sitting on my book stack by my couch. 

Last but not least, The Perfume Collector. This was an impulse buy, as are most of my book purchases at WalMart. They always have that 2 for $15 paperback deal and I always fall prey to it. I know. I'm weak.

The Perfume Collector was sad, beautiful and romantic. Katherine Tessaro's historical romance was rich in detail and intrigue at where the story would take me next. From Monaco to WWII Europe and every where in between, The Perfume Collector was a classic example that everyone has a story and that scent plays a powerful association with memory. 

These ten books, are books that I wouldn't have found if I hadn't allowed myself to step outside my comfort zone or if I hadn't dug a little deeper in the bargain bin. The finding of these ten unique stories brought me on different journeys and prevented me from entering a reading slump (this is a real disease that affects hundreds of readers every week). 

Give these titles a try. I promise you won't regret it.
Links and cover photos from